Hard Times for WBZU

Rolf Schäfer, © Handwerkskammer Ulm

These are indeed trying times for the Education and Training Center for Innovative Energy Technologies, or WBZU, in Ulm, Germany. The institute, which had become part of the local chamber of industry and commerce in January 2014 (see HZwei issue from April 2014), had seen a steadily declining interest in its educational offerings in the months before the end of last year, evidenced by a much lower number of seminars held during that period. Subsequently, Sirko Nell – formerly, managing director of the institute – left the Weiterbildungszentrum Ulm (WBZU) prior to the beginning of 2017. His responsibilities were handed over to Rolf Schäfer, vice president of Ulm’s chamber of commerce. Tina Betz, who had taken on the job of long-time employee Manuela Egger, the “kind soul” of WBZU, has left the company as well. All in all, Schäfer will have to make due with three employees for the time being.

WBZU was founded in 2002 with the support of the German state of Baden-Württemberg and the federal government and used to be called Fuel Cell Education Center Ulm. Despite losing its independence, nothing was supposed to change “regarding the organization’s primary objectives,” Tobias Mehlich, president of Ulm’s chamber, said at the time. In reality, however, attempts were made to attract more tradesmen to the seminars. These attempts failed, presumably because the several hundred euros charged for a single course were just too much to pay, not least considering that the institute mainly provides educational resources for academics and scientists.

Only time will tell whether this year’s ten seminar options will be enough to guarantee the organization’s survival.

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